Death and Rape Threats

Today, I’d planned to post the second half of my top ten list about being pregnant. Instead, I read something this morning that turned my stomach and wore me out in a completely different way.

The something in question was “Let Me Tell You About the Birds and the Bees: Gender and the Fallout Over Christopher Priest” by Catherynne Valente.

Valente is a bestselling fantasy and sci-fi author. Priest is a sci-fi author who recently took quite strong exception to the nominees for this year’s Clarke Award. There was much virtual hullaballoo and whatnot over the vitriol with which Priest chose to express his opinion.

But his opinion per se is not what inspired the Valente post or the post I’m writing now. What Valente chose to focus on is the fact that this was his opinion. As in, a male opinion. And, she asserts, had the same opinion originated with a female author, the backlash against this female author would’ve been a lot stronger than just some online tongue-wagging and head-shaking.

Go read what Valente wrote. It’s pretty convincing. Especially the parts where she gives examples of female bloggers who’ve received rape threats and death threats simply for stating what they think.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of vocal women being targeted online. I believe my first exposure to it was this post by Shauna James Ahern. She describes how she once posted a recipe for soft pretzels. Moments later, someone commented, “I hope you choke on your own pretzels and die, you bitch.”

Really, people? Over pretzels?

No. Not really. It wasn’t the pretzels, and it wasn’t Ahern (who’s also received comments such as, “I hope the pedophiles are watching and I hope they get your kid.”). It was the fact that this is an outgoing, optimistic, vibrant, popular, outspoken woman. The origin of the thoughts was female, and she wasn’t shutting up when told to do so. She wasn’t going away.

There’s also this article, which describes websites glorifying the “war on women” and encouraging misogyny and brutality — both online and offline.

Back to Valente, whose post made me feel the need to hijack my own blog today. She writes,

Most women who blog or are active in the cultural commentary game know that they have to watch what they say. Always. It’s a horrible balancing act, and one I rarely see men having to do.

…The fact is, to be a woman online is to eventually be threatened with rape and death. On a long enough timeline, the chances of this not occurring drop to zero.

…I keep trying to think of what a male blogger would have to say about science fiction to have someone say they hope he gets raped to death. I’m not coming up with anything.

Misogyny in the West is coming up and it’s a gross, miserable, chthonic thing swirling at our feet. It’s getting worse, not better.

Valente is right. Now, those of you who know me IRL know that I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the news or to politics. The former is depressing, by which I mean that I actually do begin to have a dismal outlook on life when I regularly expose myself to stories of death, destruction, and cruelty; the latter simply disgusts me with its ubiquitous hypocrisy. BUT. There’ve been several news/politics stories that have caught my attention recently. And I can’t ignore them.

Have you been paying attention, my dears? Are you aware of the lawmakers who want to give employers the legal right to ask a woman why she is using birth control — and to fire her or not hire her if she’s using it to prevent pregnancy? Are you aware of the lawmakers who want to force a woman to undergo a vaginal ultrasound before she can have an abortion*? And require the doctor in question to perform the vaginal ultrasound before performing the abortion, even if the doctor doesn’t want to do the ultrasound?

And then there’s the old standby: Are you aware that a woman gets paid less for the same job a man does, even if her qualifications are the same as his?

Another old standby: Feminazi! I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this term applied to a woman who dares express a women’s-rights opinion that steps outside the accepted norm. Over and over again during college, I heard this term applied to one of my most respected professors. Why? Because she had opinions. About women. About women’s rights. About how men treat women. About how women respond to that treatment. About the right and the wrong of it all.

And she wasn’t afraid to speak those opinions.

Feminazi.

Really, people?

A woman has a solid core belief system and dares to open her mouth and let others know about it — so you equate her with a person who committed the atrocities of rape, torture, terror, murder, and genocide?

Really?

Women, these things are not something we can ignore. They’re not going to go away. They are getting progressively worse. The world we grew up in is not going to be the same world our daughters and grand-daughters grow up in. I truly fear that our daughters and grand-daughters aren’t going to enjoy half the freedoms that we’ve enjoyed — and our freedoms haven’t been anywhere as numerous as they should’ve been. Are you going to let this happen?

Men, these things are not something you can ignore. They’re not going to go away. They are getting progressively worse. The world your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and wives grew up in is not going to be the same world your your daughters and grand-daughters grow up in. Your daughters and grand-daughters are going to live in tiny boxes made all the more confining by the knowledge that things could and should and used to be better. Are you going to let this happen?

I’ve been belittled, teased, and mocked because I’m female. I’ve expressed opinions and offered suggestions and been ignored — only to see those same opinions and suggestions be accepted when they came from a male.

I’ve never heard anyone say they hope I get raped to death because I said something they disagree with and in a way they disapprove of.

I am afraid to hit “publish.”

Will the threats start now?

And yet, I cannot remain silent. I will not.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

~Frank Herbert,
Dune

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*No matter what my opinion about abortion itself (and I’m not going to discuss it here), a government should not be allowed to require a woman to have an object shoved up her vagina before she can have an abortion.